Fortunately for fans of professional wrestling, weekly televisions shows and monthly pay-per-view events have given the audience the chance to see various matchups take place inside of the squared circle. From in-ring classics to theatrical spectacles, there have been many instances where fans have received exactly what they paid for.
Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant. The Rock versus Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Undertaker versus Shawn Michaels. John Cena versus Brock Lesnar. All dream matches, all matches the WWE universe has been fortunate enough to witness.
However, for every major match that takes place, there are dozens being discussed backstage by the creative team that don’t come to fruition.
There are many reasons why matches don’t come about. Whether it’s management disapproval, character conflicts, injuries or disinterest from a talent, some contests that fans would love to see are unfortunately shelved. You’d be amazed to see what some of these planned matches were. There are some matches that were better off not happening, such as the proposed Triple H versus Mike Tyson boxing match or Mickey Rourke against Chris Jericho. However there are some that are painful to look back on, knowing how much those proposed matches could have delivered.
With that being said, let’s take a look at 15 matches that were supposed to happen, but for one reason or another, didn’t.
15 The Big Show vs. Shaq - WrestleMania XXVIII
To begin the countdown, there was, at one point, a scheduled match between The Big Show and Shaq to be a part of the WrestleMania XXVIII spectacle.
It would have made sense, as The Big Show is no stranger to matches against celebrity athletes (re: WrestleMania XXIV against Floyd Mayweather) and the all-time great NBA center was, and still is, a huge professional wrestling fan.
A feud was already made between the athletes, as the two behemoths had a physical encounter when O’Neal was a guest host of Raw. Unfortunately, because he leaked the news to media outlets weeks months before the event, Vince McMahon and company decided to nix the plans altogether.
A contest pitting The Big Show and O'Neal against one another would have truly fit into all the other great WrestleMania moments; instead, we saw a lackluster match between Show and Cody Rhodes.
14 Triple H vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin - SummerSlam 1999
The buildup to the actual match was full of swerves (Russo?) as to who the no.1 contender would be. Initially it was Triple H, having beaten The Rock at Fully Loaded, until Chyna won the spot from him. Then, Mankind would take the spot and eventually it settled on a triple threat match featuring Austin, Foley and HHH.
Austin had to drop the title as he was going to have to take some time off from lingering neck problems. Rumors have swirled as to why it was made a triple threat match and why Foley wound up winning. The original plan was to have Triple H get his big title win over Austin, but due to Austin being limited, it was made a triple threat. Another theory comes up that Austin didn't want to drop the belt to Triple H and hence Foley was made champion, only for the Mickster to drop it to Hunter the next night on RAW.
All we know for sure is Triple H getting a win over Austin on PPV would have been a far greater moment than how he actually wound up winning it.
Some rumors have even popped up that Chyna was in fact penciled in to beat Austin for the world title.
13 Mankind vs. Vader - WrestleMania 13
Before Mankind and Vader joined the WWE ranks, they had a longstanding feud overseas; one that saw Mankind legitimately lose his ear during one of their hellacious matches.
When both men made their way to WCW, the decision makers decided to look past their history and not capitalize on the momentum. However, in 1997, both men were booked for WrestleMania 13; and both men saw an opportunity to finally continue their war into North America.
Unfortunately, Vince McMahon believed that the duo should first form a team, making their split and future feud more meaningful.
Not only did they have a forgettable match with Owen Hart and the British Bulldog for the WWE Tag Team Championships, but also – unfortunately - their rivalry never came to fruition.
12 Triple H vs. The Rock vs. The Big Show vs. Chris Jericho - WrestleMania 2000
To start, everyone knows the main event of WrestleMania 2000 should have been a classic one-on-one bout between Triple H and The Rock – a match fans witnessed one month later at Backlash.
However, with the McMahon family clamoring for the spotlight, they decided to have one wrestler represent each McMahon, thus making it a Fatal-Four-Way elimination match. The main event of the evening saw Triple H defend his title against The Rock, The Big Show and Mick Foley – who just retired one month earlier.
For those who thought it was odd to see Foley included in the match, it’s because he wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. Original plans called for new WWE addition Chris Jericho to be the fourth man. Jericho is even featured on the cover picture for the event on the WWE Network.
However, a combination of Vince McMahon not having confidence in Jericho coupled with his regret of Foley never headlining a WrestleMania led to the change.
11 Chris Benoit vs. CM Punk - Vengeance 2007
Sure, WWE’s version of ECW didn’t resemble its original incarnation. However, the show's top match on the pay-per-view Vengeance would have made the ECW faithful proud. Heading into the event, the creative team had CM Punk – who was the premiere talent on the brand – face off against recent acquisition Chris Benoit. Although Benoit was a proven veteran on the WWE roster, his inclusion on ECW was solely so he can coach the young superstars, while also putting on great matches with them including – and to the fans' delight – CM Punk.
While the two were primed to put on a classic match for the vacant ECW Championship, the unfortunate and tragic events that have forever shaped the image of Benoit took place over the same weekend as Vengeance. A lackluster bout featuring Punk and John Morrison went in its place.
10 Mick Foley vs. Dean Ambrose
Before Dean Ambrose was one-third of the most dominant faction in recent memory, he had a plan to make it to the main roster on his own – and that was to start a feud with Mick Foley. As Ambrose broke down on a recent Talk is Jericho podcast, he presented an idea to stalk and confront Foley at different functions, like WWE Hall of Fame meet-and-greets and autograph sessions.
Keeping kayfabe alive, Ambrose would be seen berating Foley, telling him that because of the hardcore stunts he pulled during the Attitude Era, he made young wrestlers coming up put their bodies through hell to emulate him. While WWE officials supported and encouraged both their interactions and feud, a negative physical put the kibosh on any program pitting Ambrose and Foley against one another in a match.
Sure, his inclusion in The Shield surely didn’t hurt his current standing with the company; however it would have been awesome to see an all out brawl between these two crazy individuals.
9 Eddie Guerrero vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin - King of the Ring 2002
The year 2002 was a hectic time for the two WWE Hall of Famers, Eddie Guerrero and Stone Cold Steve Austin. After being fired about a year earlier, Guerrero overcame substance addiction and not only went into the best shape of his life, but also improved in the ring when he re-signed in April of 2002. At the same time, Steve Austin was on the decline, and poor storylines put him in a bad standing with the company.
With Austin wanting fresh opponents to face on the Raw brand, he looked to Eddie Guerrero to help gain his love for wrestling back. During the spring, the two superstars engaged in backstage segments that were clearly leading to a matchup – which planned to take place at that year’s King of the Ring event.
Unfortunately, Austin couldn’t get over his rift with WWE personnel, as he walked out of the company, thus putting an end to a potential contest.
8 Eddie Guerrero vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania 22
This next dream match also includes Eddie Guerrero; unfortunately, there was a sad reason why this one didn’t take place. In what would have surely torn the house down in front of a passionate Chicago crowd at WrestleMania 22, the creative team had plans to put Guerrero against Shawn Michaels in a one-on-one encounter.
The storyline was going to focus around how, as Michaels was a young, cocky heartthrob in the WWE in the early 90s, Guerrero was a mirror image in Mexico. Their parallels continued as drug abuse hindered points of their careers, but both men were able to establish faith and fight their demons.
In an unfortunate event, Guerrero unexpectedly passed away due to heart failure in November 2005, leaving the fans to wonder about how amazing a match between two great talents could have been.
7 Sting vs. Kurt Angle - WrestleMania X-8
When you look back at WrestleMania X-8, Kurt Angle – who was arguably the most talented wrestler on the roster – was in a forgotten, throwaway feud with Kane. The reason is because Angle was originally supposed to partake in a very high-profile match that didn’t come to fruition.
When Vince McMahon bought WCW, he was known to bury the talent from the company. Because of this, Sting was always very wary about joining the WWE, as he didn’t want to be relegated to a weak role. However, talks between McMahon and Sting were very serious in 2002; so much so, that the creative team was scrambling to get Kurt Angle out of any feud he was involved in to immediately set up a showdown with the WCW loyalist.
Unfortunately, Sting had an unwillingness to partake in the WWE’s hectic schedule and declined to participate in the match. Although we saw both men face of years later in TNA, it would have been an amazing sight to witness it at a WrestleMania event.
6 Bret Hart vs. Hulk Hogan - SummerSlam 1993
In 1993, a change of the guard was happening in the WWE. The WWE was in a transition from the over the top characters and the superhero look of top stars to a more realistic look, and a greater focus on in-ring action. The transition can be summed as following: a Hulk Hogan type of star would be replaced by a Bret Hart kind of star. Thus it made perfect sense for Hogan to put Bret over, as Hogan was on his way out and McMahon needed to put Hart over as the new face of his company.
Plans were set for Hogan and Hart to clash at SummerSlam 1993 in what would have been dubbed the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Unfortunately, Hogan felt that Hart wasn't in his league, seeing him as a guy too small to beat a force like Hulkamania. Instead we got Hogan beating Yokozuna in a 30-second match at WrestleMania IX, before Hogan dropped it back to Yoko on his way out. A fitting farewell for Hogan would have been a classic encounter with the Hitman. Unfortunately egos got in the way and we never saw how a Hitman/Hogan match could have fared.
5 Shawn Michaels vs. The Rock
If you take a poll of WWE fans and ask what’s one remaining dream match you would like to see, a majority of the answers would be Shawn Michaels versus The Rock. However, a history of real life bad blood seems to be the force behind the matchup never taking place.
Many rumors have circulated as to why The Rock had such disdain for HBK. Allegations state that when Michaels used to work for The Rock’s grandmother early in his career, he used to bully her around until he got his way. Furthermore, Bret Hart’s book claims that both Michaels and Triple H repeatedly told Vince McMahon that The Rock didn’t deserve his Intercontinental title push in 1997.
While it appears that Michaels had matured when he returned to the WWE in 2002, The Rock stuck to his guns and made it clear that he would never work a match with him, no matter how many times it was presented.
4 The Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle - WrestleMania 22
Before Brock Lesnar conquered The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania 30, there was someone else who was planned to do so.
Enter Kurt Angle.
According to an interview with the United Kingdoms “The Sun,” Angle explained how, because The Undertaker had never had a five-star WrestleMania match at that point in his career, looked to Kurt Angle as his opponent to accomplish that feat. The supposed plan would see both men main event the Smackdown side of the show for Angle’s WWE Championship. With an Angle/Undertaker match taking place the month prior at No Way Out, The Deadman asked for it to be pushed one month later for WrestleMania 22. When Vince McMahon had told The Undertaker that he wanted Angle to keep his title, he let him know that he was willing to put Angle over.
Instead of seeing this instant classic, we saw The Undertaker defeat Mark Henry in an underwhelming casket match.
3 Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock vs. Triple H - Survivor Series 1999
Although many names come and go, there are three that most can agree that truly define WWE’s glory period: Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H. Towards the end of 1999, there were no other superstars that were hotter than the trio, and the WWE was going to capitalize on their popularity by booking a triple threat match for the WWE championship.
Unfortunately, the match was never able to take place. With Austin having lingering neck issues for several years, the pain was intolerable, and the only option to help him was surgery. However, the timing of the procedure had him miss one of the most highly anticipated main events in WWE history.
In his place was Big Show, and the one-time massive main event became ordinary. The saddest part is, the WWE Universe never had the chance to see Austin, The Rock and Triple H compete in a triple threat match.
2 Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart II - WrestleMania 13
Out of every classic match that has ever been featured on WWE programming, there is one that stands out among the rest. Shawn Michaels versus Bret Hart in an Iron Man match for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XII.
Very rarely do fans get the opportunity and pleasure to see two of the very best wrestlers in the company go one-on-one for the top prize at the biggest show of the year. However, in 1996, the fans witnessed just that. What many fans don’t know is, a rematch between the two greats was scheduled for WrestleMania 13 as well.
In a feud that became visibly personal, both Michaels and Hart became real life enemies. When Michaels realized that he would have to return the favors to Hart from WrestleMania XII, he “lost his smile”; aka, Michaels didn’t want to put over The Hitman. While that match would have garnered a five-star rating, the fans don’t have much regret; in its place, we saw Hart face off against a young Stone Cold Steve Austin, which eventually catapulted Austin into stardom.
1 Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair - WrestleMania VIII
If there is a countdown that involves matches that were supposed to happen but didn’t, no other can take the cake as number one. From 1985-1992, Hulk Hogan was the most popular wrestler in the world, while also being a pop culture icon as well. His charisma and good guy mentality gained the attraction of people from all walks of like.
What Hulk Hogan was to the WWE, Ric Flair was to WCW. When Flair joined the WWE in 1991, there was not one person who didn’t see the money signs in a match pitting icon against icon on the biggest professional wrestling show in the world, for the company’s top prize. While the match was originally promoted for WrestleMania VIII, it was eventually scrapped. Some have stated that house show matches between the both men were both lackluster in the ring and in the box office, while others said there was a conflict on who was going to be victorious.
In the end, the WWE opted to go a different route for WrestleMania VIII. While the two men later met in WCW, it just didn’t feel the same – there was something about a Flair/Hogan match taking place at WrestleMania that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. An opportunity lost indeed.